Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) contribute to tumor progression, and microRNAs (miRs) play an important role in regulating the tumor-promoting properties of CAFs. The objectives of this study were to clarify the specific miR expression profile in CAFs of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and identify its target gene signatures. Small-RNA-sequencing data were generated from nine pairs of CAFs and para-cancer fibroblasts isolated from human HCC and para-tumor tissues, respectively. Bioinformatic analyses were performed to identify the HCC-CAF-specific miR expression profile and the target gene signatures of the deregulated miRs in CAFs. Clinical and immunological implications of the target gene signatures were evaluated in The Cancer Genome Atlas Liver Hepatocellular Carcinoma (TCGA_LIHC) database using Cox regression and TIMER analysis. The expressions of hsa-miR-101-3p and hsa-miR-490-3p were significantly downregulated in HCC-CAFs. Their expression in HCC tissue gradually decreased as HCC stage progressed in the clinical staging analysis. Bioinformatic network analysis using miRWalks, miRDB, and miRTarBase databases pointed to TGFBR1 as a common target gene of hsa-miR-101-3p and hsa-miR-490-3p. TGFBR1 expression was negatively correlated with miR-101-3p and miR-490-3p expression in HCC tissues and was also decreased by ectopic miR-101-3p and miR-490-3p expression. HCC patients with TGFBR1 overexpression and downregulated hsa-miR-101-3p and hsa-miR-490-3p demonstrated a significantly poorer prognosis in TCGA_LIHC. TGFBR1 expression was positively correlated with the infiltration of myeloid-derived suppressor cells, regulatory T cells, and M2 macrophages in a TIMER analysis. In conclusion, hsa-miR-101-3p and hsa-miR-490-3p were substantially downregulated miRs in CAFs of HCC, and their common target gene was TGFBR1. The downregulation of hsa-miR-101-3p and hsa-miR-490-3p, as well as high TGFBR1 expression, was associated with poor clinical outcome in HCC patients. In addition, TGFBR1 expression was correlated with the infiltration of immunosuppressive immune cells.
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